Scotland's Finn Russell starred for Racing 92 as they drew with Munster in the European Champions Cup
Paris (AFP) - Munster’s JJ Hanrahan missed a late drop goal as the two-time winners drew 21-21 with Racing 92 in Pool 4 of the European Champions Cup on Saturday.
The scintillating tie, played in front of a packed Thomond Park crowd, saw tries from Keith Earls and Andrew Conway for the hosts as Finn Russell, Teddy Thomas and Juan Imhoff crossed for the French side.
Racing top the table on points difference ahead of the Irish province, with both sides on seven points after Hanrahan missed out on the chance to repeat the often-seen heroics of ex-Munster fly-half Ronan O’Gara.
“It’s very a difficult place to come and be within such a grasp of winning the game, we did ourselves proud,” Racing 92 winger Simon Zebo, who previously played for Munster, told broadcasters BT Sport.
“It’s a huge result for us, the other teams in the group will find it difficult to come here and come away with anything,” he added.
Munster coach John van Graan made three changes from last weekend’s thumping of the Ospreys in their opening match in the tournament as Hanrahan started instead of Tyler Bleyendaal.
Racing’s Laurent Travers named ex-Munster players Zebo and Donnacha Ryan in his side but remains without Fiji’s Leone Nakarawa and Tonga’s Ben Tameifuna for off-field disciplinary reasons.
France scrum-half Maxime Machenaud dropped out of the side minutes before kick-off with Teddy Iribaren replacing him.
Hanrahan opened the scoring on eight minutes with a penalty goal.
A quarter of an hour later the man in the other number 10 shirt, Scotland’s Russell, showed why he is reportedly Racing’s highest paid player with his second try in as many games.
He received the ball from Iribaren, grubber kicked the ball between the legs of Rory Scannell and dived over.
Hanrahan closed the gap to 7-6 with a penalty six minutes later but further attacking flair was to come from the visitors.
- Russell on repeat -
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Once again Iribaren was the provider as he found Thomas out wide who caught his own tidy chip for his sixth touchdown in as many games this season.
The Irish response came seconds before the half-time whistle as Earls got the better of former team-mate Zebo to dive over in the corner.
Hanrahan missed the conversion as Racing led 14-11 at the break.
The former Northampton fly-half made up for his miss before the interval and brought the teams level with a 46th-minute penalty but the Parisians regained the lead three minutes later.
Russell was key for a second time as he fed Argentina winger Imhoff who ran in under the posts before Iribaren’s conversion made it 21-14 with half an hour to play.
After Thomas and Russell continued to show their ability with ball in hand, the hosts pushed on into French territory during the final 10 minutes.
After pressure on the Racing line, Hanrahan threw a looping pass to winger Conway who scored in the corner and the fly-half converted to bring the teams level as the Thomond Park crowd erupted.
Van Graan’s men searched for the winning points inside Racing’s 22 metres with three minutes to play.
Hanrahan dropped deep behind the ruck, right in front of the posts and received a pass from scrum-half Alby Mathewson but agonisingly hit his drop goal just to the left.
After the clock turned red, Russell kicked his side into the Irish half but Racing knocked on from the resulting lineout and both sides were forced to settle for a draw.
Earlier on Saturday, an impressive defensive stand and an inspired Johnny Sexton guided record four-time winners Leinster to a 13-6 victory at Lyon.
Elsewhere, title holders Saracens hammered Welsh region the Ospreys 44-3 in their first home fixture since they were handed a £5 million ($6.5 million) fine and docked 35 points for breaching Premiership Rugby’s salary cap rules.